LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 27, No.4 - Winter 1981
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
Copyright © 1981 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Andres Küng. A Dream of Freedom. Four decades of national survival versus Russian imperialism in Estonia, Lavia and Lithuanian 1940-1980. Boreas Publishing House, Cardiff-New York-Stockholm-Sydney-Toronto, 1980. VIM + 272 pages. Hard covers.
Andres Küng is an Estonian, born in Sweden, in 1945. At this writing, he is only 36 years old, but he has already published 24 books. He is a journalist for Swedish and Estonian newspapers in Sweden as well as an editor of various TV programs.
His first book appeared in 1969; this means that he averaged about two books a year. All of his books were originally written and published in Swedish, and then several of them have been translated into English, Estonian, Finnish, German, Icelandic, Latvian, Norwegian, and even into Japanese. Many of these translations were done by Küng himself because he speaks a dozen languages, and has traveled in some hundred countries.
The book under consideration here was originally published in Swedish in 1978. This English version appeared two years later in 1980. From the contents of this book one can readily see that A Dream of Freedom is not a direct translation of the Swedish original, but, rather, an up-dated adaptation. E.g., this book frequently refers to events of 1979, and, occasionally, even of 1980. That certainly was not possible in the 1978 Swedish "version" of this book. (One may surmise that most of Küng's books published in other languages than Swedish are of this type; it will be quite a task for bibliographers!).
Finally, since no mention of translation can be found in this book, it has to be considered entirely on its own merits.
As the subtitle states, the book deals, primarily with the "national survival versus Russian imperialism in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, 1940-1980. A short but very succinct Foreword was written by Professor Peter Reddaway, London School of Economics and Political Science, a well-known specialist and author on Soviet affairs.
After reading the book, one has to agree with Professor Reddaway as he states in his Foreword:
"His description of life in the Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is both remarkably comprehensive and highly readable. He has digested a large volume of official and unofficial sources, and, blending in his personal experiences from travel in the area, he produces a narrative in which the judgments are judicious and balanced. He has overcome the notoriously difficult problem for writers on Soviet affairs, that of assessing the true substance beneath the layers of propaganda and prejudice which coat many of the sources, especially the official ones and some of those produced by émigrés. This is no mean feat, as emotive themes such as Russification, colonial domination and economic exploitation are naturally central to the book's concerns." (p. VII.)
Küng begins the book describing in detail the trial against the Estonian Democratic Movement which is also the title of his first chapter (pp. 1-14). The Helsinki declaration was signed in summer, 1975, and only two and a half months later in Tallinn, only 50 miles south of Helsinki, five dissidents were brought to trial accused of "malicious slander regarding the foreign, internal, and nationalities policy of the Soviet Union." All five were accused of having some connection with the Estonian Democratic Movement, all were found guilty and sentenced to various terms in labor camps. In camps, they remained unbroken and signed various appeals some of which reached the West.
In Chapter II ("Why I wrote this book"), Küng stresses the fact that very little is known about the three Baltic states in the non-Soviet world: "As I have traveled round the world I have often noticed how the Baltic States have become so little known that they seem almost exotic." (p. 21).
The author was allowed to visit Estonia twice in 1970, but, after his return to Sweden, he wrote a book about Estonia. After that book was published in Sweden in 1971, Küng has not been allowed to return. In this connection, the author writes: "This blacklisting, however, cannot force me to silence. This book on the three Baltic states today is my reply." (p. 21). Küng feels that he has an obligation to write as he does. He tells of one encounter he had while visiting in Estonia (Mr. Küng speaks Estonian fluently). In Tallinn, and Estonian woman grabbed his arm and said, "Go home and write about everything you have seen, heard, or felt. Tell the world that we have survived and will never become Russians or Communists!" (p. 20).
Thus, the first two chapters set the theme for the entire book: to tell how Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians have survived the 40 years of Russian occupation, and how they are determined never to become Russians or Communists.
Chapter 3 ("Between East and West") describes how the three Baltic nations differ from the Russians, and briefly outlines their western and Christian traditions.
Chapter 4 ("Education and indoctrination") deals with the educational systems of the three Baltic states, and how Russianization is pushed through this school system.
The following eight chapters are titled as follows: 5. Literature and art as the Party tells you; 6. Faith and persecution; 7. Rich republics? 8. The Communist Party nationalism or centralism? 9. Minorities in their own lands? 10. From guerilla war to passive resistance: 11. Human rights in the Baltics; 12. May Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania be free and independent states!
Annotated bibliography (works listed are mainly in English, French and German) is given on pp. 248-259. The Appendix contains the full texts of the two memoranda to the UN sent, in 1972, by two Estonian underground organizations: The Estonian Democratic Movement, and the Estonian National Front. Finally, there is an Index, pp. 269-272.
In each chapter, the author remains true to his main theme, namely, the survival of these three nations, despite the mass deportations, despite the Stalin terror, despite the relentless pressures from Moscow in all spheres of life. Küng shows not only what is common to all three nations, but also in which way they differ. For example, in Chapter 9 ("Minorities in their own lands"), he graphically portrays the great influx of (ethnic) Russians into Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania: "There were 300,000 Russians in the independent Baltic states before Second World War. In 1970, the number of Russians had increased to 1,300,000." (p. 178). However, there are differences in the three countries: in 1970, there were still 80% Lithuanians in Lithuania, but only 60% Estonians in Estonia, and only 57% Latvians in Lativa. Inspite of these statistics, Küng is inclined to think that, at least for another generation or so, even in Latvia, the prospects are not that bleak. His analysis includes the birth rate, the high number of divorces and, of course, the immigration of the Russians into the Baltic states.
Although Küng uses a, more or less, popular narrative, his data, figures, statistics, dates are all based on real sources, except when he intersperses his own experiences. Naturally, in a book of this size, dealing with so many complex problems, and with three different states, or nations, there are bound to be some disproportions in length, in selection of examples, etc. Since Küng is an Estonian (a native-born citizen of Sweden, I hasten to add), more Estonian (rather than Latvian or Lithuanian) cases are cited here and there, including a few Estonian words, expressions, songs, etc.; more Estonian documents are cited, but Küng does indeed try to present the Latvian and Lithuanian situation as well. And in most cases, he succeeds.
A few minor discrepancies I will now mention do not detract from the general impact of this book, and only someone thoroughly versed in all these problems may notice them.
Although (on p. 201) the author lists several main books and articles concerning, primarily, the Lithuanian anti-Russian guerillas, in the text itself (particularly pp. 200-203) he does not describe all this with his usual thoroughness, including statistical data. A reader, who knows very little about it, would get only a very vague idea. Especially since Küng himself says: "The surrounding world knew hardly anything or did not want to know about the armed resistance which took place in the Baltic countries during all these years." (p. 202).
Again, writing about the Lithuanian underground publication, Küng mentions only two, the Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church (appearing since 1972), and the Auğra ('Dawn), appearing since 1975. But it is generally known that, by 1979, there were more than a dozen periodical underground journals in Lithuania. One wonders why Küng fails to mention this important fact.
One more minor point, I believe, should be mentioned. On p. 220, the author likens the folksongs of the Baltic peoples to those of the negro slaves of the American South, and then goes on stating: "A number of Baltic folksongs are about the simple peasant who defies the foreign landowner." I cannot pretend to know much about the Estonian and Latvian folksongs, but, among half a million recorded Lithuanian folksongs, this type of song, i.e., the defiance of the foreign landowner by the simple peasant, is very very rare, indeed, and not characteristic at all.
The book is printed on good paper, well bound, and the special (12/13 pt. VIP Palatino) type is very pleasing to the eye. As always, English printers have enormous difficulties with Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian names. Although all three languages use Latin alphabet, each one has different diacritic signs. Apparently, since the author hismelf is Estonian, Estonian names were provided with the appropriate diacritic signs, or marks. Quite a few diacritic signs are missing on Latvian and Lithuanian names, although some attempt had been made, e.g., Èaks (pp. 76-77), Jurağas (pp. 81-82), Auğra (pp. 84-85), but Vladislovas Zhilius (=Şilius), Petras Grishkevicius (=Griğkevièius), etc., etc.
Basically, a very interesting book, well written, and very much needed.
The University of Rochester